Users of Apple's popular App Store, a favorite destination for discovering the latest online applications, may also encounter something decidedly less savory, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper said Friday that it had turned up more than 1,500 reports of "unwanted sexual behavior" across six so-called random chat apps, which are platforms that connect strangers for conversations.
The Post examined more than 130,000 user reviews of six apps — Chat for Strangers, ChatLive, Holla, Monkey, Skout and Yubo — which, except for one, all rank in the top 100 social media apps.
The paper found that about 2% of reviews left for Monkey included complaints of unsolicited sexual advances, including people targeting children.
Monkey is a social video chatting platform where, as it is described in Apple's app store, users can "share who you are and meet like-minded people in seconds"; it also has a 17+ age rating for "frequent/intense sexual content or nudity." One review of the app read, "A man who is sick in the head and disgusting decided to show some things that shouldn't have been shown," according to the Post.
Nearly one-fifth of reviews for ChatLive reportedly listed similar complaints. "In my mind, these have to go," Phillip Shoemaker, Apple's director of App Store review from 2009 to 2016, told the Post, referring to random chat apps.
Apple has said that it bars "chatroulette" apps, which instantly match users with random strangers across the globe, from its store. But the Post said it found four apps — Monkey, Holla, Chat for Strangers and ChatLive — that place people in random chats. Yubo and Skout give users more control over who they chat with.
Responding to the story, Apple said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch: "We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for our customers to get apps and we take all reports of inappropriate or illegal contact extremely seriously."
"If we find a developer is not complying with the rules around user-generated content, we actively partner with them to tighten their moderation practices to avoid future occurrences," the company added. Apple also said it wouldn't hesitate to remove inappropriate apps.
The findings highlight the mounting scrutiny on how Apple, Amazon, Facebook and other big tech companies manage and moderate their platforms. Amazon has been accused of allowing counterfeit wares in its online marketplace, while Facebook has been criticized spreading disinformation.
Apple has said that it reviews nearly 100,000 app submissions every week. On its website, the company said that 40% of apps are rejected for minor bugs, while many others are barred over privacy concerns. It also requires developers to have a method for filtering, reporting or blocking offensive users or content, according to Apple.